MS Dhoni-Captain, Leader, Legend!

Late last night, pretty much every Indian who follows cricket as a religion came in for a rude shock. MS Dhoni, Indian ODI & T20 team captain had decided to stand down as skipper in both formats and continue just as a player.

Dhoni is without an iota of doubt the very best ODI & T20 captain for India. Infact, he was the person who had brought in the dynamism in fielding & running between wickets into the Indian cricket team. If ever there was someone better than Michael Bevan and deserved the finisher tag more than him, it was MS Dhoni for all his last over exploits. Dhoni gave us many such memorable moments, ill mention my favorite 5 which are etched in memory;

1.India v Pakistan, 2007 ICC World T20 Final

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I precisely remember where I was during this game. At my aunt’s place, watching the game with my brother. I remember my uncle calling to ask for a score update and I was on the phone updating him regularly. Last over, 13 needed, and he threw the ball to Joginder Sharma. First reaction, is he mad? After the 6 off the 2nd ball, we all but lost hope. My uncle was still on the line and I am giving him running commentary. 6 needed from 4 balls, 1 wicket to get. Sharma bowls, Misbah goes for a paddle scoop, I tell my uncle, it’s a six(on first impression of the shot), then it dawns. No, it’s a catch.(honestly, Sreesanth always looked like dropping it until he caught it!). I am shouting and jumping at the same time while still being on the phone. India win and thus dawned the era which a few years down the line we will call the Dhoni era.

2. India v Sri Lanka, 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup Final

Yet another World Cup, yet another game I remember where I was and what I was doing. Friends gathered at my place watching the final. Sri Lanka amass 275 owing to a classy century from Mahela and India start in rocky fashion losing big guns Sehwag and Sachin for just 25 runs. Harrowing memories of South Africa 2003 return. Gambhir steadies the ship with his 97(for me, the deserving MOM). Dhoni promotes himself and partners Gambhir to consolidate and bring it close. Dhoni scores 91*(78) and the final 6 to seal the deal will be an image that no Indian watching would be able to forget in their lifetime.

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Ravi Shatsri’s words still echoes in my ears:

Dhoniiiiiiiiiiii finishes off in style. A magnificent strike into the crowd! India lift the World Cup after 28 years, the party starts in the dressing room and its an Indian captain who’s been absolutely magnificent in the night of the final

Here is something from my archive reminiscing that fateful day; ON TOP OF THE WORLD!

3. England tour of India 2006, 6th ODI

This was the early years of Dhoni the captain in the making. Dhoni actually opened the innings with Sehwag and went on to score 96. This is the innings that I consider ranks highly than any other century he has gotten. The pitch was a seaming track and the Indians were falling like 9 pins. Dhoni with Ramesh Powar for company compiled a well crafted 96. It was disappointing to see him not get that 100 and India lost the match too, but then his innings had really made an impact on me and hence I remember it fondly.

4. India v Sri Lanka, 2013 West Indies Tri-Nation Series Final

One of the matches that brought about the class of Dhoni the finisher. India chasing a meager 201 to win the Tri-Series lost the 9th wicket in the 47th over with Dhoni still at the crease. The target went from 19 off 18 balls to 15 off the last over. He sure loves those last over finishes. Eranga was given the big responsibility. The pitch was not helping the batsmen,so this was Sri Lanka’s game to lose. But, Dhoni had other ideas. 0,6,4,6. Cool as they come. Another trophy in the kitty. They don’t call him captain cool for nothing!

5. KXIP v CSK, IPL 2010

Whatever happens, Dhoni will fondly be remembered forever as captain of CSK. This one from the archive is one of the favorites of every CSK fan. Typical Dhoni territory. 16 needed off 6 balls to qualify for the semi finals. What does Dhoni do? Decimate the bowling off course. And this is even more famous for his ‘helmet punch’ after hitting the winning six. This was a rare show of emotion by Dhoni on the cricket field and surprised many.

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But, Dhoni the test captain was a bit of an enigma. In tests, he was mostly resigned to the fact that the fast bowlers were ‘not fast enough’ or are always injured when more is needed from them. He let the games drift(especially abroad) whenever there was a chance to tighten the noose. Cue cut to England in 2011, India took a meager lead in the first innings of the 2nd test and had 2 quick scalps in the second innings, enter Ian Bell, and the game was gone. The game was infamous for the ‘recall of Ian bell after her was run out‘ incident. Then, New Zealand in 2014, yet another 2nd test and NZ were all but out of the game with half the NZ side back in the hutch for less than a 100, when India let them back in the game after a swashbuckling triple ton from Baz and centuries by Watling & Neesham. In the spinning pitches of India, Dhoni was a master and marshaled his resources like a king, but when there was less on offer for spin abroad, Dhoni was always found wanting and was at best a defensive captain.

Overall, 2016 was a decent year for Captain Dhoni, but, the pressure on batsman Dhoni was mounting to no end. His mantra of taking it to the final over began to work less, bowlers had become more skillful and wily while operating to Dhoni and Dhoni was at the receiving end of the pressure quite lately. Dhoni has always been a selfless statesman, be it his retirement from test cricket or the announcement that he is standing down as skipper from the shorter formats and with this announcement, I feel that the 2017 Champions trophy will be his swansong.

or does he still see himself playing the 2019 World cup?

Only time will tell!

Image courtesy: Google; Header Courtesy: ©Getty Images and Cricket Australia
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Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar- A Career of Greatness!

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It was his last game. He had announced his retirement. His 200th Test match. India won. He was running around happily after the victory to congratulate his team mates when it occurred to him he will never be doing it again on a cricket field. As the team gave him a moving guard of honour, he left the field. He cried. A billion people cried. That was the impact one man had on cricket in India. Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. Continue reading

When he played, all else was IRRELEVANT!!!

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“When Sachin plays, big-city roads are easy and trains and buses ply empty at rush hour and the markets take a beating… When Sachin plays, grandmothers who know next to nothing about the game forget knitting and resting and medicines and pray to their gods as they sit frozen, staring nervously at their television screen… When Sachin plays , busy, ambitious executives ignore their calls and cancel their appointments and avoid their clients and miss their deadlines and put their careers on hold… When Sachin plays, college common rooms are dense and tense and hushed as an entire generation sits on pins and needles… When Sachin plays, school-yards are silent and playgrounds are deserted because those who normally make such a racket imitating their hero are all too busy watching him make batting look so ridiculously easy… When Sachin plays, fathers who want the news and daughters and mothers who always want soft stuff and brothers who fight for action, for once all agree on what to watch… When Sachin plays, bowlers and fielders and opposing captains feel their impotence and inadequacy like at no other time and curse themselves and wonder what they can do, if anything, to end the shame, the nightmare, the humiliation… When Sachin plays, commentators and experts run out of adjectives and expressions of wonder and comparisons… When Sachin plays, lay spectators have no need for words at all and just jump and scream and whistle and clap and hug each other and cry and wave their flags and banners and thank their lucky stars for being there… When Sachin plays, India forgets its differences and divisions and teeters between tensions and exhilaration and breaths and laughs and cries as one, as its heart fills with pride and joy and patriotism… WHEN SACHIN PLAYS, ALL ELSE IS IRRELEVANT”

Such was the impact of this one man army as quoted by Adidas in one of their commercials about Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. The greatest ever to have grazed the cricket field.

I started watching cricket at the age of 10. I really did not know much about the team then. In India, you can be a fan of any cricketer, but there is a fact that you can never really hate one man. This man redefined cricket in India.  I had the privilege to watch him up close during one of the best test innings he had ever played. 136 against Pakistan on a grueling hot day at Chennai. Although India went on to lose that match after Sachin’s effort, it will stay etched in the memories of many for the sheer audacity and fight the man showed. And who can ever forget the twin centuries at Sharjah. You have to be a fool if that doesn’t get a mention on your blog post. And then my recent favorite best of Sachin would be the 175 vs Aus in the 2010 series where India were on the brink of a remarkable victory and lost by just 3 runs chasing 351. That one innings made me watch with awe at what this man had been doing for the past 20 years. It was a spellbinding innings with masterclass written all over it. If i begin to write what i like about this man, this one page can never be enough.

The man who shouldered a billion dreams every time he walked into bat and gave everyone a reason to watch cricket today called it a day to a glorious 23 year old ODI career. Things will never be the same again. The game of ODI cricket loses its greatest servant. Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, Legend, Sir. Respect for all your achievements & thank you for all those wonderful moments you had given us all along. Thy shall be missed!

Curtain Call-Goodbye to “The Wall”

This week marks the end of an illustrious career of a man who has shown us how you can reach great heights with focus and determination, will power & grit, passion and humbleness. Rahul Sharad Dravid, the greatest ambassador for the game of cricket and perhaps the best cricketer the world has seen. If ever the history books were willing to lend a page to jot down the achievements of someone it would be for Dravid. LEGEND in a true sense.

Goodbye, Sir!

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AN OPEN LETTER TO TEAM INDIA IN ENGLAND

Time for Introspection

Dear Team INDIA,

I take the liberty to draft this letter on the behalf of millions of cricket fans across the globe.

First of all, let me begin by telling you that this is by far the worst experience for me as an ardent fan of your team. Ever since i started watching cricket way back in early 1990’s, never have i felt so apathetic & heart breaking while supporting my team on a tour.

Yes, i agree we are a demanding lot. But, that is because of you TEAM INDIA. You had made us accustomed to winning. It was OK if it was only winning, but you made us proud by showing us that you had the intensity and audacity to not go down without a fight. That is the TEAM INDIA we wanted to see.

You won us the WORLD CUP, no we haven’t forgotten that and will never forget that ever in our lives. You earned the title of #1 Test team in the world. We were a happy lot you know. But, these past 3 weeks gave us our reality check. Oh, yes it did!

These three weeks were most harrowing times for any fan, leave alone me. Although after each failure of yours, I tell myself not to follow the remaining matches anymore. I know from the inside, me and the millions of fans were watching each and every ball. That’s how we are.

We expected you to fight. We never even saw a glimpse of that in this series. Yes, there were exceptions. RAHUL DRAVID! We seriously do not know how much more humiliating it would have been to see the team go down without his 3 fighting and quality centuries. Each when the team needed them and each which gave us hope that there was at least  someone willing to put up a fight. RESPECT!!!

There were glimpses of fight in the final test match. Although we lost, you have raised our hopes again. Though the #1 test team tag is lost along with this series (and ENGLAND in every sense were the BETTER team in all departments), we still have our hopes high on you. We will consider this a blemish.

In the weeks proceeding this series, we will ponder on the future, we will back you during these hard times. Yes, after all you are still our beloved team.

Signing off, hoping the good old days of not going down without a fight is just round the corner.

Your’s faithfully,

An Ardent Fan

 

Battle Royale!

Manchester United vs FC Barcelona

On 28th May, two of the best teams in Europe will cross swords for the biggest prize of them all…The UEFA Champions League Cup. Two teams with contrasting styles and equally talented and contrasting players. Manchester United vs Barcelona is always a treat to watch. Both teams have come off contrasting seasons too. Barcelona have had it easy in the La Liga claiming their 3rd successive title while Man Utd have earned the EPL title in what has been dubbed “The Mother of all Seasons”.

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